Masks and Social Distancing
Masks and Face Coverings
*****Seattle Colleges District’s Health and Safety works during regular BUSINESS HOURS Monday- Friday 8 – 5:00pm. If you are reporting a case over the weekend, we will not get back to you until Monday. Please follow protocols clearly laid out in the Current Campus Entry Procedures.
This past spring, Gov. Jay Inslee lifted the indoor mask mandate (effective Saturday, March 12, 2022) for many businesses and organizations (schools, child-care facilities, grocery stores, bars, gyms, and others).
Continuing Fall Quarter (starts Monday, Sept. 26) masks, for the most part, will be “optional but encouraged” at Seattle Colleges. This aligns with state and local guidelines. If public health conditions change, community levels increase, or there are future surges or new variants, face covering requirements will be reassessed.
Masks will continue to be required in some instances, including but not limited to:
- Clinical and other health-care settings and educational programs (dental hygiene, respiratory care, nursing, EMT, NA-C, etc.)
- For those who test positive and are returning to campus after isolation at home.
- For those who have been exposed to someone with COVID.
- For full details, refer to Spring 2022 Masking Standards.
All students, faculty, staff, and community members should continue to bring a mask when visiting any of our campuses or locations. Any areas requiring masks will be clearly marked with new signage, and masks will continue to be provided at centralized locations on each campus.
Please respect those who continue to wear masks for their own health, safety, or comfort.
NOTE: The colleges and district have added KN95 masks to their supply of masks and will distribute them to support any necessary on-campus interactions during Spring Quarter. Each campus is informing students and employees about where to get a complimentary mask.
Personal Reasons to Wear a Mask or Face Covering
While not required in most indoor settings, face coverings remain an important intervention against respiratory illnesses of all kinds and offer an additional layer of protection. Individuals may choose to wear a face covering if they are in close contact with someone who is at high risk for severe illness (such as a household member) or if they have close contact with young children who are not yet eligible for vaccination.
Some people may choose to wear a mask out of consideration for people who may be at high risk in public settings or if they want to further reduce their own risk for any reason. Please remember that individuals may need to or choose to wear—or not wear—masks for a wide range of reasons. Thank you for respecting those needs and choices.
If you are meeting one-on-one in a closed space or in close-contact with someone who politely asks you to wear a mask while interacting with them, please be respectful of the fact that we all have varying levels comfort at this time; put on a mask for that interaction.
Rationale for Lifting the Mask Mandate
There were several factors leading to this decision:
- Vaccination and booster rates are high in Seattle and King County.
- Washington state’s data dashboard has shown a trend toward lower COVID-related transmission, hospitalization, and death rates. The current COVID-19 Community Level in King County is Low.
- Changes in health measures have been made across the country in alignment with the CDC framework on COVID-19 community levels.
- State public health officials continue to monitor for other variants.
- The CDC and King County recently updated their masking guidelines based on COVID-19 and related hospitalization rates.
- Seattle Colleges will continue to employ and encourage multiple strategies to ensure the safety of our students and employees.
Other Protocols Remain in Place
While mask requirements have changed, other protocols will remain in place:
- Continue to fill out the Daily Wellness Screening Form if you are coming to campus for instruction, services, or work. This helps with contact tracing.
- Do not come to campus if you are sick, think you may have COVID, or have been exposed to or tested positive for COVID.
- The current Covid-19 vaccination requirements for employees and students will remain in place.
- Practice good respiratory etiquette (coughing or sneezing into the inside of your elbow) and wash hands frequently.
Refer to the following resources for more information.
- Current Campus Entry Procedures
- Infection Control Program
- Requirements for on-campus activities
- COVID-19 Resources (testing and vaccination)
Thanks to everyone for doing their part to ensure the health and safety of our campus community as we navigate this changing pandemic and continue the transition back to more in-person services and instruction.
KN95 masks reduce the amount of dust or virus particles a person breathes in by a greater amount than general cloth masks. While many face masks help prevent the spread of the virus from the wearer to others, they provide limited protection to the wearer. A KN95 provides better protection for the wearer than other face masks, while also reducing the spread of the virus from the wearer.
How do I properly use my KN95?
- If possible, wash or sanitize your hands immediately before and after putting your KN95 on and immediately before and after taking it off when planning to reuse it.
- Place the mask over your face, with the bottom below your chin and the nosepiece up.
- Place the straps of the mask over each of your ears.
- Adjust the metal nose clip using fingers from both hands to mold the clip to the shape of your nose
- Adjust fit as necessary to reduce air flow around the mask.
- Certain types of facial hair, like beards, can make mask fitting difficult. Masks that fit well protect you better. To have a better fit, people with beards can shave their beards or trim their beards close to the face.
- If you wear glasses and find fogging to be a nuisance, wash the lenses with soapy water and shake off the excess before putting on your mask (wipe off nose piece to minimize skin irritation).
How should I care for and store my KN95?
Please DO NOT attempt to wash your KN95. With proper care, your KN95 should be reusable for an extended period of time.
To keep your KN95 clean between uses, store your mask in a safe location that other people cannot access and where it will not get wet or be subject to direct sunlight or excessive heat. A dry paper bag works well for storing your KN95.
When should I discard my KN95?
You should replace your KN95 when it:
- Becomes soiled
- No longer covers the nose and mouth
- Has stretched out or damaged ties or straps
- Cannot stay on the face
- Has holes or tears in the fabric
A KN95 may be disposed of in the normal trash.
How is a KN95 different from an N95?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not consider a KN95 mask a negative-pressure respirator since it has not been certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Therefore, OSHA does not require a person be “fit tested” to wear a KN95. Since a person is not fit tested for a KN95, they should not use a KN95 in situations where a fit-tested N95 mask is required (for example, in clinical areas or for certain medical procedures).
Why use a KN95 instead of an N95?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that N95s be reserved for use by health care providers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
What other actions should I take if I wear a KN95?
Even if you wear a KN95, you should still:
- Get the COVID-19 vaccine (and booster, if eligible) if you have not already done so. The vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your family, friends, classmates, and co-workers from COVID-19.
- Stay home if you are sick or have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, and contact email@example.com.
- Practice physical distancing when feasible.
- Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Note: Information above about the KN95 mask is from the University of Maryland's Department of Environmental Safety.
- Guidance for Wearing Masks and Evidence for Their Effectiveness
- Masking Guidance from Public Health — Seattle & King County
Social or physical distancing is no longer mandated at Seattle Colleges and other colleges that require vaccination, per the governor’s higher education proclamation. However, three to six feet of physical distancing is encouraged, where feasible.
NOTE: For Winter Quarter, where possible, all in-person meetings should transition to remote meetings. In-person meetings do not include classroom instruction. All other meetings (including those with external partners and vendors) should be held remotely, if possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
Meeting the Requirements of the Governor's Proclamation
At Seattle Colleges we work to follow the governor’s higher education proclamation as well as the WA Department of Health guidance and King County’s Current COVID-19 guidance.
Delta Variant and Other Variants
The COVID-19 delta variant has been the dominant SARS-CoV-2 strain in Washington State, but other variants may become dominant. For many of these variants, the amount of virus produced in the upper respiratory tract of an infected person is hundreds to thousands of times more than previously observed with earlier strains. This means these variants can transmit considerably more efficiently – from person to person – than earlier strains and can infect twice as many people when they spread through unvaccinated groups.
To be Vaccinated
While those who have been fully-vaccinated and boosted for COVID19 have a significantly lower risk of contracting COVID-19 (including the delta variant) there are a very small percentage of COVID-19 infections occurring among the vaccinated population. These “breakthrough” cases are generally mild. And, it is extremely unlikely for a vaccinated person who experiences a breakthrough case to transmit the virus to another vaccinated individual.
However, it has been well documented that, for the delta variant, these few breakthrough cases can transmit the virus to other unvaccinated individuals. For this reason, unvaccinated people should continue to wear a face covering while around others who live outside their home. As an added control to reduce the spread, while our community achieves full-vaccination status, the State mandates that masks are to be worn in all indoor, public spaces, regardless of your vaccination status. This reduces the chance of spread to our vulnerable unvaccinated community (like children who cannot yet get vaccinated).
Remember, a “potential-exposure” is to be in physical distance of less than six feet, for 15 minutes or more, with a person who is contagious with COVID-19. It is not to pass someone in the hallway or to enter a space previosly occupied by an individual contagious with COVID-19.
Since Seattle Colleges is becoming a "fully-vaccinated campus" as per the governor's higher education proclamation, the risk of on-campus COVID-19 transmission is significantly being reduced. However, there are members of our community who cannot get vaccinated and still need to work and study to achieve their goals and needs. We need to work together as a community to protect those who cannot be vaccinated. As a vaccinated campus we have maximized our infection control power. It is considered safer to relax our physical-distancing requirements, however, there is no reason to not continue to maintain at least three feet of physical distance from others in all spaces where feasible and the colleges strongly encourage the continued practice.
No, individual staff and faculty may not waive or modify the governor’s mask mandate within their classroom or department.